Review: Tim Hawkinson at MCA, Sydney

Tim Hawkinson at MCA, Sydney

"All these giant piles of moving rubbish are making me feel quite anxious," says my partner at "Mapping the Marvelous" - the Tim Hawkinson survey show at MCA.

And there is a lot of junk. And quite a bit of it is moving. In Hawkinson's practice plastic bags, tubes, wires, used pens and tin foil are used in constructions and machines of great trickiness. The human body is formed and reformed with a range of materials. His work is playful - it looks like he has had fun inventing and constructing these machines. Human touch is everywhere - materials have been twisted, cut, pasted, taped, glued and tied  together.

In playful collages, Hawkinson tests the limits of representation of the body, greatly exaggerating features and proportions. The g\fabrication of these works is crude, to say the least. It is hard not to envisage an extremely chaotic studio (possible this is the mental image which is distressing my partner) occupied by an artist working with feverish intensity. The point is that in these works, the presence and actions of the artist are foregrounded.

The enormous 'balloon self portrait' features a giant latex bladder attached
to the wall of the gallery. From the bladder a tube snakes into the navel of an inflated latex cast model of the artist's body. Effectively Hawkinson has turned the gallery space into a womb, his half-defined form sustained through an umbilical attached to a body of air.

In 'drip' an oppressive amount of plastic has been twisted and manipulated into something resembling the form of a tree and plumbed with dripping feed lines. These are driven by pumps controlled by a sort of cylinder music-box contraption. 'Music' is coded in copper strips on two large jars which spin, somewhat erratically, so that the pumps are briefly powered up in staccato bursts. The drips thus produced land on metal plates in plastic buckets creating short sets of percussive noise - I guess you could call it music.
While the drips are certainly caused by the workings of the cylinder-music-machine-and-pumps arrangement, it is impossible to tell whether the drips are exactly timed according to the information on the jars, or if the information has become garbled (as seems highly likely based on the extremely haphazard seeming construction).

This is quite an elegant metaphor for the a living organism. The information encoded in our DNA is certainly causing our bodies to do certain things. But the plumbing and construction of our bodies, with its legacy of  evolutionary redundancies and experiments means that the interpretation and expression of the information is likely to be confused. Or at best, noisy.
But Hawkinson consistently takes care to expose any mechanical workings. His sculptures are legible, for all of their haphazardness. They are not truly chaotic, but rather achieve their purpose through an organic inventiveness. The recurring theme seems to be the possibility of achieving results even with unlikely means. This survey reveals a body of work that is both optimistic and a celebration of life.

more information of this show

By Sam Leach

Sam Leach

Leach is an artist living and working in Melbourne. He was born in Adelaide in 1973 and moved to Melbourne in the early 90s. Leach completed his honours degree in painting at RMIT in 2004 and is currently doing his masters. In 2006 Leach won the Metro5 prize and the Geelong contemporary art prize. This year he was a finalist in the Archibald. Leach shows at Nellie Castan gallery in Melbourne (show coming up in June) and Sullivan and Strumpf gallery in Sydney